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Friday, September 27, 2013

Why I Am Not Babaloo Mandel. Part Eight.

This is the final chapter.

After Lowell Ganz and I split up, his career flourished, and mine was floundering.
Lowell was immediately hired to be the Show Runner back on "Happy Days"
I beseeched him to hire me as a consultant and let me write episodes for the show.
He did, and told me that I can write "As many episodes as I wanted to".
I began writing episodes, and immediately began garnering more respect from Garry Marshall, and from studio people, not Gary Nardino, who most-likely didn't read them, because he was most-likely illiterate.
But my first drafts were virtually shot as written.
"As many episodes as I wanted to" was turned into a hefty handful, but not nearly as many as I wanted.
Lowell didn't want me to be THAT impressive.
During those two seasons, what with the help of the episodes I wrote, and Lowell still diligently listening to my consulting,
Ron Howard was so impressed with "Lowell's work" on "Happy Days" that he asked him to write the movies he planned to direct.
Of course, I still got no credit for the quality of Lowell's work.
And Lowell was still scared shitless to write by himself.
So he recruited one of the staff writers, one Babaloo Mandel, to write the movies with him.
I once asked Lowell if he did a 50-50 split with Mandel on the money.
He maintained that he did.
Yet, in his Emmys interview, he implied that, at least on "Night Shift", it was less than 50-50.
I had built up a lot of capital with Lowell.
The movies he wrote with Mandel, many of them big hits, were as a result of him spending that capital on Mandel rather than me.
Mandel was a joke writer.
He didn't bring any story sense or construction, or taste, to any of their projects.
Of the movies of theirs that I've seen, the first 45 minutes are usually hilarious, and then stumble across the finish line.
If I had co-written those movies instead of Mandel, there would have been no stumbling.
Usually, someone else is given story credit on their films.
They are not storytellers.
Except for "A League of Their Own", which was based on a true story, so it was just a matter of "Connect the dots".
Mandel's actual name is Marc.
He read "Portnoy's Complaint" by Philip Roth.
In it, one of Portnoy's childhood friends goes down to the courthouse on his 16th birthday, and changes his name to "Babaloo".
So Mandel stole my movie career from me, and his first name from Philip Roth.
Ganz and Mandel also were show runners on a few short-lived series.
I understand from an actress who worked on one of them that when it was time to give the acting notes, that Lowell was still the Captain of that ship, and Mandel had to show as much supplicant deference as I had to all those years.
Okay. Then, I went to work on "The New Odd Couple".
And a very fortunate thing happened:
Laverne and Shirley went off the air, and dump trucks started showing up at my house unloading tons of money.
I was actually seeing money from profit participation from it.
I never knew if I actually would.
James Garner had to take Universal to court over "The Rockford Files"
But "Laverne and Shirley was SUCH a huge hit that it would have been just too embarrassing for the studio to claim that they weren't making money on it.
So as I was working on "The New Odd Couple", accruing my newly found riches, I developed a new philosophy about working.
I would only work on shows that I thought could be good, and shows where the work atmosphere was pleasant.
Otherwise, I'd stay home.
I thought "The New Odd Couple" WAS good.
But about ten episodes into it, it became a very unpleasant work atmosphere.
So I quit.
No hard feelings with the studio or the network.
I had gotten the show on it's feet, which was all they needed from me.
After that, I was offered a litany of shows to run which could only be charitably referred to as "crap".
This figured.
My resume, except for "The Odd Couple" was loaded with shows that hadn't gained any critical respect.
So I kept turning things down.
And if you keep turning down crap, people stop offering you even crap.
And you become known as the guy who keeps turning things down.
Then, I was offered "She's The Sheriff"
I was on the fence about that one.
It sure sounded like crap.
But they sent me the Pilot, and I offered them a lot of ways for it NOT to be crap.
And they were willing to do everything I suggested.
I enjoyed working on it immensely for a year.
Until I realized that I was the only one there who cared about the show being any good.
So with my being respected, and me not respecting the way the show was headed, I left.
And I began writing plays and screenplays, totally enjoying doing that.
And this is why I have this huge hole in my TV resume since 1988.
When Lowell was questioned in the interview about what happened to me after our split, he mentioned the two series I did, and mentioned the plays I had written, in his words "which have toured the country in....dinner theaters".
Not "theatres", but "dinner theaters".
Now, I have nothing against dinner theaters.
I would be pleased to have my plays done in dinner theaters.
But the fact is that my plays have NEVER been performed in venues where food was served.
Nor did I ever tell, or imply, to Lowell, that they HAD been performed in dinner theaters.
He never saw any of my plays.
He made up "dinner theaters".
Now, why would someone make up something like that?
The only reason I can think of is to imply that my plays are not worthy to be performed in legitimate venues.
It was pure mean-spiritedness.
I've mentioned that I don't enjoy writing arbitrary villains.
What I enjoy even less is encountering them and working with them.


My books, "Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays", and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings remaining, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one, contact me at
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne and Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.



  1. Not a pretty picture of Mr. Ganz. Reminiscent of several characters who have marred my life and others', and who are commonly referred to as professional bull**itters.

  2. Mark, this was a fascinating journey. Not just as a piece of "show biz" history, but as a man looking back. Your pain, as well as your loyalty, really hit me as I read every chapter. It's obvious this was not easy to write for you emotionally.

    But I don't think it's finished. There are more "whys" that I am wondering about.

    Why did you let Lowell Ganz treat you like that? Why did you let yourself treat you like that?

    Thanks for writing this and sharing it with us, Mark.

  3. Phil, we were very young. He achieved immediate individual credibility. He knew that I didn't. I knew that I didn't. We were enormously successful very early. I really didn't realize the damage that was being done until we were working on "Happy Days" At that point, we both knew I was at his mercy If I challenged him, I thought my career would be over. If I had challenged him then, I would not have had my chance to create "Laverne & Shirley" When I went to school, there were no classes to teach you how to cope with a situation like this. If you were in my place, what would you have done?

  4. That was an amazing story. I waited until the last part before commenting because I wanted to see how it turned out. I hope writing it all down gave you some peace of mind if you didn't already have that. Your point about the early success at a young age and not having a blueprint to help explain what is the right or wrong move is spot on. Some things we learn are lessons that will never be relevant again in our lives because of their unique nature.

  5. I just wanted you to know that your account of how your ex-partner didn't really know the meaning of what being a partner day-to-day actually means doesn't fall on deaf ears.

    I had a business partner for about eight years. The majority of them were pretty fact, I can think of three specific cases where he saved the business. Sadly, he had a tendency (exhibited on several occasions) to throw me under the bus, both to distributors and to customers. This was pointed out to him, and he sort of stopped. But we were not partners that long afterwards. He left the business, and I continued it for several years afterwards.

    We no longer speak because, when I shut down the brick-and-mortar part of my business, I sold a lot of the retail stock to a competitor that my former partner didn't like.
    He threatened to drag me in front of a judge because I DARED to treat my own property as, own property.

    I will also say that the damage these people inflict last for years afterwards. Sometimes, as you well know, it NEVER heals.

    Your current series resonates with me, is what I'm saying. Well done!

  6. Mr. Rothman, I posted the above without reading your reply to Phil D's comment. I, too, felt that I didn't dare challenge my then-partner on much of anything. He came on when my business was in crisis, and when he pulled us out of it, my worry was that he would simply leave (which in fact he tried to do at first, after realizing the enormity of the hole we were in), and I would be stuck deeper in debt. He ended up pulling himself together and figuring out a solution to that particular pickle, but the feeling that he would leave and I would crash and burn without him never left me.

    It is a very helpless feeling.

    I later realized what an abusive relationship it was, and I'm glad I'm out of it. NEVER AGAIN.

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  8. The problem I have with some of the Ganz/Mandel movies--and it's not uncommon to Hollywood comedies, going back to the '40s--is you get two acts of sharp dialogue (albeit in the form of one-liners), and then, for the third act, this 180-degree turn toward sentimentality. CITY SLICKERS comes to mind. Now, I'm not against sentimentality per se. In fact, the older I get the more receptive I am to it. But I rather know from the very beginning a film's going to be sentimental, than have it come at the tail end of an hour and half of edgy humor. The sentimentality ends up not doing anything for me because I know it's contrived, and it just ends up taking me out of the movie.

  9. I would hope I would have done the same thing you did, Mark. I just never knew how to get past the first or second rung on the show biz ladder.

    You went from continuing to work because of Lowell to succeeding in spite of Lowell. Not to mention the faith you had in yourself and doing the right thing for you.

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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."